Hey everyone, it’s the weekend! I’m so happy! Only two weeks left of school which is awesome…it’ll be my first time completing a Winter semester in College and I’m so grateful! I hope you guys are doing well too!
Today I wanted to write about something I’m really trying hard to change, and that’s my habit of taking things personally. In my experience doing so often leads to a mindset of imagining everyone against you / judging you. I know it puts me on the defensive and living in that state can increase stress, lower confidence, induce guilt and self-doubt and cause unnecessary anger or resentment towards ourselves and/or others. In other words viewing things as a personal attack isn’t the healthiest mindset. Taking things too personally can really affect our mental health! I don’t know if part of our habit of taking things personally comes from the sense that life is an ‘every person for themselves’ type of deal, but whatever it is I’d like to be free of it. Let’s work through this in steps from cause to liberation.
Why Do We Take Things Personally?
- If we’re in a position of lower confidence, it seems probable that we’re also more sensitive to criticism. It follows therefore that we have a kind of filter through which we ‘let through’ other peoples’ words that are along the lines of our existing beliefs. The words that don’t resound with us as much may fall to the side. I imagine that if we perceive a fault in ourselves and someone makes a comment that falls close to that sore spot, we’ll interpret it as an attack on our character. I think this is part of why people who are more confident and self-possessed let things go more easily. Even if someone is making a personal jab, the more confident person will think to themselves; “I’m know I’m not [insert whatever the person is implying], so I can take this with a grain of salt. It doesn’t bother me.” Whereas the insecure individual may start feeling ashamed, angry at themselves, guilty, etc., even if the person is wrong about them or not referring to them at all.
- We’re limited to our own consciousness; we’re with ourselves all the time and that’s just how we experience the world. It’s important to note though that while we may be at the centre of our own world, we’re not the centre of the world. In other words…it’s not all about us. I don’t mean to suggest that we’re egotistical or self-centred…not at all. One can be of course, but I don’t think taking things personally automatically means we’re egotistical. I’m mentioning this for the purpose of explaining our often limited perception. I think it’s helpful to remember that other people are just making their way through the day as we all do and we each have our own stories. The person we perceive to be judging or criticizing us may simply be having a bad day. Without being in the other persons’ mind we don’t know if they intended to express what we are interpreting. It’s all a matter of perspective.
- Here’s a big one that ties in with the first point: Maybe we care way too much about what others’ think of us. (I know I do!) If we walk into every social interaction with the need to be liked by all, that’s setting ourselves up for failure. It’s just not realistic and in the end, does it really matter if this stranger we just met thinks of us in a certain way?
Liberating Ourselves From Taking Things Personally
- STOP BASING YOUR WORTH ON WHAT OTHERS THINK OF YOU! I’m sorry, this warranted caps lock, mostly because I’d like myself to read it over and over until it finally sinks in! Though I’m really bad in this regard, I recognize how unhealthy it is to base our worth on others instead of using our own personal character yardstick. I think we need to ask ourselves what we value in ourselves, and work with our own standards.
- Building up our confidence can help us build a sort of barrier so comments don’t affect us so deeply. We need a long look in the mirror where we impartially examine our strengths and weaknesses without judgement. This is so much easier said than done!
- Let’s retain our power…letting people get to us is like handing them the strings to our emotions and becoming a puppet. My dad always said that with learning new things it’s important to keep an open mind and then you can choose to incorporate or reject. I really think this applies to our situation as well. Instead of letting comments through without reflection, perhaps it would help us to consider different angles before we take something to heart.
- Letting things go can be difficult, but I think this is a situation that may require it. Dwelling on something usually doesn’t help unless it’s calm reflection. Obsessive contemplation over a conversation that happened in the morning for example is a good way to taint the rest of our day when it may really not be worth the time and aggravation.
- Let’s try to remember that what we perceive and interpret is not necessarily what the other person intends to communicate.
- If there’s a situation where we’re correct to take something personally, we have various options. If it’s not important, perhaps we should just move on. If it is important, before becoming angry or self-critical maybe it would be more beneficial to clarify the situation in a calm and friendly manner.
- We have control over our beliefs and emotions, but accepting that we cannot control others’ is helpful for us to accept other viewpoints and allow a difference of opinion.
- Maintain your priorities, and by this I mean reserve your energy for what really matters and not for combatting every little ‘bad’ thing someone says or thinks of you. Focus on what matters most to you.
I hope you find this article helpful…have a lovely weekend everyone!